In a move that many have called a "declaration of war," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that his government would approve two controversial pipeline projects despite the vigorous objection of many of the First Nations communities who are in the direct path of the projects.
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Trudeau announced the approval of the CDN$6.8 billion Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, which would carry highly toxic tar-sands oil almost 1 thousand miles to the west coast of the country, as well as the CDN $7.5-billion Enbridge Line 3 project which would carry tar-sands oil across 4 Canadian provinces and the state of Wisconsin to the shores of Lake Superior.
Reaction to the announcement was swift and furious. The grand chief of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called Trudeau a "serial liar" after he met earlier on Tuesday with a new group of First Nations leaders signing onto the historic Indigenous Treaty Alliance, a treaty signed among over 100 Indigenous communities opposed to pipeline project on their territories.
A spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who are in the direct path of the Kinder Morgan project, called Trudeau’s decision a "big mistake" and vowed to challenge the decision in court.
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"Their permits are illegitimate, I believe they will be thrown out in court. This is just the beginning of another phase of this conversation," said Tsleil-Waututh spokesperson Charlene Aleck. "This issue is as black and white as the killer whales they endanger. This is about our survival and the protection of our home, this inlet and the planet. They are making a big mistake, we will not allow this pipeline to be built."
The approval of the projects, while not a surprise to many watchers, came despite the recommendations earlier in November of the 3 person panel appointed by Trudeau to review the proposal which suggested the pipeline should not proceed without a serious reassessment of its impacts on climate change commitments and Indigenous rights. The report noted that the original review process, initiated by the far-right conservative government of Stephen Harper, was “seriously flawed” and failed to adequately consult First Nations.
The approval also appears to come over the objections of at least one key member of his cabinet. The environmental group DeSmog Canada published a letter from Trudeau’s Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, which said the approval of the project would be "misguided", adding that "there is no longer one government or person that can legally or socially make the final decision on this, or any other pipeline."
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"Apparently Justin Trudeau's sunny ways mean dark days ahead for climate action and Indigenous reconciliation in Canada. With this announcement, Prime Minister Trudeau has broken his climate commitments, broken his commitments to Indigenous rights, and has declared war on B.C.," Mike Hudema, a campaigner for Greenpeace, said in a statement. He added, "If Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to bring Standing Rock-like protests to Canada, he succeeded."
The projects are expected to lead to a combined increase in tar-sands oil production, something which leading climate scientist Jim Hansen has suggested would be "game over for the planet," by almost 1.1 million barrels per day. The projects would also produce 80,000 tons of carbon daily and pollute 2.64 million barrels of fresh water a day in the highly water-intensive extraction process necessary for tar-sands oil.
Trudeau received some praise for scrapping plans for the beleaguered Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, also announced on Tuesday, which would have transported tar-sands oil across sensitive northern watersheds.
"We’re jubilant to see this final nail in the coffin to Enbridge Northern Gateway. It’s a huge victory for us and for all coastal communities that depend on our coastal marine resources," said Coastal First Nations board chair Patrick Kelly. "Nobody knows better than First Nations the risks posed by crude oil transport at sea and the damage oil spills can wreak on our cultures, economies, and ways of life."